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Reynolds High graduate part of 'Up the Fall' cast



Anne-Marie Plass sings, plays violin and piano, volunteers at an animal shelter and library and works at Starbucks.

The 1998 Reynolds High School graduate also has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that can be characterized by cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities.

According to the Williams Syndrome Association, people with the condition tend to be social, friendly and often gifted with striking verbal abilities — all of which Plass seems to possess in spades.JOSH KULLA - Anne-Marie Plass, a 1998 Reynolds High School graduate, has been in several productions staged by Pacific Honored Artists, Musicians, and Entertainers, better known as PHAME.

Plass points out that one characteristic of people with the syndrome is an affinity for music. She especially enjoys singing during the holidays.

“One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas, so I love singing choral music,” she says.

She’s also getting a chance to exercise her pipes in “Up the Fall,” an original play with music commissioned for PHAME — Pacific Honored Artists, Musicians and Entertainers.

The play debuted Aug. 22, and will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29, at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 S.W. Morrison St., Portland.

Along with Kaydie Cebula, Plass is one of two East County residents in the show, the cast of which includes people with various disabilities as well as those without. The show has garnered audience favor, selling out its initial performances last weekend. Tickets are $28 for adults and $22 for students and seniors and can be purchased at phamepdx.org.

“Up the Fall” was written by Debbie Lamedman, a Portland playwright, and features music by singer-songwriter Laura Gibson as well as Matthew Gailey. The play’s title refers to an ancient myth in which a carp is compelled to swim up a waterfall, jump a magical gate and transform into a dragon.

Plass plays the human character Ord in the fantastical play, which follows a cast of mythical characters as they try to restore order and progress in a realm taken over by the vengeful Graeae Sisters. Their journey takes the audience from present day Portland to a mythical world where the moon cannot shine, stories cannot be collected and waterfalls cannot flow.

“Up the Fall” features characters like Ratatoskr, a skittish squirrel, a wise spider, a swaggering jaguar, a hopeful carp and a determined young woman named Diana who struggle to move past obstacles to achieve their dreams.

“I think a lot of the themes that this play suggests will resonate with many people,” Plass says, noting the themes include friendship, confrontation, adversity and “stopping something bad from happening.”

Plass says she likes the fact the cast features folks with and without disabilities.

“These two groups of people can collaborate together,” she says.

That point was echoed by Lamedman, who has taught directing at PHAME and incorporated elements of Chinese, Japanese, Norse, Native American and South American myths into “Up the Fall.”

“I didn’t take into account any of the actors’ disabilities, I just wrote the story,” she says, adding that she tweaked a line here and there if it seemed too difficult for an actor to say, but pretty much wrote the piece just as she would any other play.

She’s had fun watching the production come together.

“It’s always an incredible process to have something that you’ve lived with in your head for a certain period of time come to fruition,” Lamedman says, adding the PHAME cast is a blast. “It was a beautiful rehearsal process because they were always so happy to be there.”

She also praised Plass for her attention to her role.

“She is one of the hardest working young women I have ever seen, and I think she was perfectly cast in the role of Ord,” Lamedman says, adding that Plass’ character gradually comes to believe in her own strengths through the course of the play, a process she also saw in Plass. “I hope she realizes that she is stronger than she knows — she sings beautifully.”

With a chuckle, Plass acknowledges she did have to overcome some obstacles on the way to portraying Ord. The play includes a scene where thunder sounds — and she doesn’t like thunder.

“I’ve had to adjust to that but that’s what makes it fun as well.”

PHAME, she adds, “is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me in terms of my artistic growth and my growth as a person.”

More importantly, PHAME allows her and other people with disabilities to deliver a message to the wider public every time they perform “Up the Fall,” she says.

“I hope that what people get is these are all things that we all go through together, and that we’re human, too.”

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